Nov. 3rd, 2002

demyankee: (happy)
Paul Vitello: Need to Feel Patriotic? Vote
November 3, 2002

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Patriotism comes up as an official subject only two or three times a year -- on Independence Day, Memorial Day, maybe Veterans Day. The rest of the time, frankly, it is the domain of political professionals and profiteers who twist its meaning to suit their purposes and (Okay, Okay) a silent majority of people who choke up at the national anthem.
All of which is fine by me. Patriotism, in order to mean anything in this particular country, has to be a pretty bendable, flexible and even distortable idea. But here's a modest proposal from an amateur patriot who thinks patriotism is too important to leave to professionals:

From now on, the premier American holiday for patriotism should be observed on the first Tuesday in November, also known as Election Day. (I propose to change the name to Voters Day -- to put the accent where it belongs -- though I could be convinced otherwise on that point.)

It should be a day off from work. Waive the bus fare and the bridge tolls. Let there be no excuse. It should be the one holiday in which Americans are expected to answer the question put by Kennedy in that inaugural speech: They can vote, is what they can do for their country.

There is no holiday that really asks for anything tangible from us. It seems like a good time to have one.

Sept. 11 is somewhere in the back of my mind here, I'm sure. Terrorism, after all, is the polar opposite idea from democracy. In democracy, you compromise and cajole and try to win over the other person. In terrorism, you blow him up. We are democrats.

But I have always, even before the terrorists committed their putsch attempt on our Sept. 11, believed in the fundamental patriotism of politics.

Soldiers who die in the service of their country are patriots. Politicians who die in small airplanes between campaign stops are patriots, too.

On their best days, good candidates who run tough and honest campaigns for the school board are patriots, in my book. Even if they are members of the party I can't stand.

This is a country where 100 votes in your candidate's camp are still worth more than 100 soldiers in your candidate's camp. And amen.

If you want to keep it that way, vote. Between you and me, I don't really care if they make Voters Day a holiday. We probably have enough holidays for patriotism. They always seem to turn into White Sale days, anyway.

They could just keep the polls open later -- maybe even keep them open for 24 hours, instead of the usual day's vote.

I'm not sure how I feel about voting by mail, or by phone, or by Internet -- all ideas that have been floated in recent years to boost the dismal voting rate of Americans.

It should require some real-time sacrifice, don't you think? It doesn't quite mean as much if you just log on and push the mouse. I like the idea of standing in a place to vote, waiting in line, checking out the condition of the voting machines, looking at the people who are part of the same community of amateur patriots as me.

That's my feeling, anyway. I could be convinced otherwise on the details, of course. Cajole me a little.

Copyright 2002, Newsday, Inc.

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